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Italy's eurosceptic leader Salvini says euro is 'irreversible'

ROME (Reuters) - League leader Matteo Salvini said on Monday the euro was here to stay and he hoped that nobody in his far-right, eurosceptic party would ever again raise doubts over Italy’s membership of the single currency.

FILE PHOTO: League party leader Matteo Salvini gestures as he gives a speech during a rally in Pontida, Italy, September 15, 2019. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo/File Photo

The League ran at the European elections in 2014 under the slogan “No Euro” and it presented prominent anti-euro campaigners among its candidates for May’s EU ballot, when it won 34% of the vote to become Italy’s largest party.

However Salvini, who had already distanced himself from calls to quit the currency during his recent time in government, made clear his party would never again stand on an “Italexit” ticket as he bids to portray a more moderate image.

“I say this once and for all, and then I hope that no one inside and outside my party will raise this issue again. The League is not thinking about Italy’s exit from the euro or the European Union”, Salvini told Il Foglio newspaper.

“To be clearer still, so that journalists stop feeding strange fantasies: the euro is irreversible,” he added.

The League walked out of its government with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement in August in a failed attempt to trigger early elections. Its poll ratings have since slipped and Salvini has adopted a softer tone on issues like Europe.

A senior League source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that Salvini was pursuing a pragmatic approach.

“We have chosen credibility. We are putting forward things that we can do. We are not going to quit the euro,” he said.

During the League’s 14 months in government, the spread between Italian and German bonds widened, and the cost of debt servicing increased, with financial markets skittish about the permanently tense relations with Brussels.

The spread tumbled when the pro-European Democratic Party (PD) replaced the League in the coalition two months ago.

Despite Salvini’s uncompromising tones, some prominent League members appeared doubtful.

Claudio Borghi, the League head of the lower house budget committee, told Reuters he was sceptical Salvini had used the word “irreversible”. However, he said that while the euro was a flawed project, the League never called for Italy to abandon the currency during its time in government.

Anti-euro campaigners say quitting the euro would allow Italy to revive its stagnant economy by spending more and devaluing its currency, helping exports. Others warn the move would lead to a flight of capital, higher borrowing costs and inflation, reducing the value of Italians’ savings.

Reporting by Angelo Amante; Additional reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Crispian Balmer, William Maclean